This post is my lengthy reply to BitterSweet End’s post, Christian Doubt by William Lane Craig.
Here’s the video with William Lane Craig’s advice to Christians with doubts about their faith:
My thoughts immediately went to this post by imbrocata:
Here’s a small section from that post:
With ideas and beliefs, we can also witness instances where minds are inoculated against thoughts or ideas that run counter to the given belief system or philosophy. Thoughts and ideas that such a person is bound to run into and against which they will need to have some defense by which to resist.
It is my goal to show that Christianity inoculates its followers in just such a way in order to create a thinking-pattern that is immune to unauthorized ideas and thoughts. I share with Christians a belief that the warfare we wage is not physical in nature but I disagree that it is spiritual; it is ideological and it is mental warfare at its heart.
That’s the sense I got from this response from Craig. He throws in at the end that they should choose one question and “pursue it into the ground,” but that seems a bit pointless once you’ve just told them that they need to go into it trusting that Christianity is not only true regardless of any evidence, but that it is superior to any other “ism.”
Craig says in the beginning that the Holy Spirit provides a “self-authenticating means of knowing that Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence.” Later in the video he refers to the “shifting sands of evidence.” I thought that was a pretty interesting way of describing evidence. It seemed to me a sneaky way of inoculating Christians against the idea that evidence might actually prove their faith wrong. That pesky evidence – don’t worry about that! That feeling in our Christian hearts will triumph in the end!
If the Holy Spirit is the primary way that Christians will know they are part of the only true faith, what are we to make of people from other religions or those who have no religion at all? Surely they haven’t all just hardened their hearts (which is a common response to why people don’t allow the Christian Holy Spirit into their hearts – because if they’d only do that then they’d know that Christianity is the only religion that really has this god thing figured out.)
Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason says that:
A thing which everybody is required to believe, requires that the proof and evidence of it should be equal to all, and universal.” (Chapter III)
The existence of people of other faiths (and no faith) shows that the Holy Spirit fails in this regard. If it is of eternal importance that all of humanity believe something, then the evidence needs to be available and obvious to everyone.
And it wouldn’t be a true Christian message without throwing in some good ol’ fear:
There is an enemy of your souls, Satan, who hates you intensely, and who is bent on your destruction, and who will do everything in His power to see that your faith is destroyed.
I really think that Craig is just trying to inoculate believers here by telling them that no matter what questions arise, Christianity is the only correct answer. I remember having this sense while I was in Christianity. Doubting was encouraged as long as it led back to Christianity. What I heard from Craig were four main things:
- Trust that feeling in your heart even if it runs contrary to evidence.
- Fear Satan!
- Inoculate yourself to doubt through spiritual disciplines.
- Pursue a doubt here and there, all the while knowing that the Holy Spirit has already told you that the doubt can’t possibly be true, and as long as pursuing that doubt ultimately leads to you remaining a Christian.
[I want to focus on #3 for a bit. When I originally wrote this post I made it sound as though Craig was purposely trying to blame the person doubting by telling them that if they’d only attend to their spiritual disciplines more then they wouldn’t have those doubts. In hindsight I think what I should have said is that it could be taken that way by someone truly in the middle of some serious doubts. I think I am always on the alert for when Christians use fear or blame to keep people from questioning the religion and in this case I crossed the line and implied intent on Craig’s part when that probably wasn’t his meaning. I still want any doubters to be alert for anyone who tries to tell them that if they’d only do (blank) more then they wouldn’t have those doubts – so I stand by that warning in general but not how I implied intent on Craig’s part.]
I’m truly curious whether Craig’s response is acceptable to Christians. I mean he doesn’t even leave open the possibility that following any of your doubts could maybe-even-kinda lead to you realizing Christianity doesn’t have an exclusive hotline to god.
Yes – there will always be questions. But are you going to follow a path that says to ignore that pesky evidence, live in fear, blame yourself if you have doubts, and don’t even consider leaving our religion? I have much more respect for a path that says to welcome any and all evidence, to not live in fear, and to change my conclusions if the evidence points in a different direction.